Reflecting on the graces we received thanks to our pilgrimage, one of them has to be a heightened awareness of our responsibility for our brothers and sisters in Purgatory.
As we travelled from Assisi to Loreto last Sunday, we stopped off at Tolentino both for lunch and to visit the sanctuary of St Nicholas of Tolentino, the great Augustinian wonder worker, and patron of the Holy Souls.
Few known about St Nicholas today, and yet the example of his life is necessary for us. He was a man dedicated to Christ, obedient to the Church and the Pope and always available to serve those in need, especially the poor and the Holy Souls who called out to him for prayer.
It was through a vision that Nicholas understood how important it was to pray for the Holy Souls, and so he devoted many prayers, and offered Holy Hours and Masses for them. They came to thank him for his prayer. In an age when many Catholics presume all the dead go straight to heaven and neglect to pray for the Holy Souls, St Nicholas has an important message for us: do not presume, but pray for the dead.
This is not a senseless pious exercise, but rather an important one. Contrary to the prevaling spirit, we are all sinners and we have all been affected by our sins. God does indeed love us as we are, but not because we are as we are - he urges us to do what we can to change, to become more virtuous. Because we are sinners, most of us will end up in Purgatory - we will need to endure the purifying fires of love to be made holy. So when we pray for the Holy Souls, we are acknowledging that one day we will need such prayers ourselves. Now there's a sobering thought.
St Nicholas, pray for us; pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them,
may they rest in peace. Amen.
By the way, the sanctuary in Tolentino is really lovely. The body of the saint lies in a glass fronted casket, his face covered with a silver mask. If you ever go to Italy, make sure you drop in. And if you do, offer a prayer for the Holy Souls.